Tobacco tax, college desegregation money among 2018 issues

January 1, 2018, Daily Journal, Emily Wagster Pettus and Jeff Amy- Mississippi lawmakers have a long to-do list in 2018, with the three-month session starting at noon Tuesday. TOBACCO TAX- Mississippi last increased its cigarette tax in 2009. Now, about 20 health advocacy groups are pushing a cigarette tax increase of $1.50 a pack, plus “parallel” increases on chewing tobacco. The two Republican leaders of the tax-writing committees - House Ways and Means Chairman Jeff Smith of Columbus and Senate Finance Chairman Joey Fillingane of Sumrall - said chances of approving the full request are slim. Advocates say an additional $1.50 a pack could generate about $200 million a year for the state budget and make smoking and dipping more expensive to deter young people from starting a tobacco habit that could cause long-term health problems. Mississippi’s 68 cents a pack is the 39th-highest cigarette tax among the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The average state cigarette tax is $1.72 a pack, according to Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, a Washington-based supports making cigarettes more expensive.

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